tv Book Discussion on The Man Who Would Not be Washington CSPAN April 18, 2015 11:00pm-12:01am EDT
they are going to be caregivers for a long time. have you spoken with those parents and what programs are there that are available for them? >> guest: of the book isn't just my voice. there are 25 other military mom voices in one of the voices is a mom who is carrying for her tbi her son who has tbi. she quit her job and moved to washington d.c. when he was at bethesda. and now what next? we have a million caregivers and fully one third of those are parents and many of them are coming from areas where they haven't had the benefit of a military background to understand what services are available to them and their whole lives have changed because they now are taking care of these terribly wounded children. ..
you talk a little bit about gold star. gold star mothers those who have lost a son or daughter. very inspirational story in here about a mom who is a gold star mother who is also in the numeral academy. the ui to touch a little bit on that? >> i got to no her when she was complete mom and discovered that lots of them have asked. the 1st big challenge there child is going through without you. as i began to communicate her she had an older son she lost in iraq. the younger son was five at the time. and the process of her coming to grips with the idea that she had the 2nd son who wanted to serve
comanche tells a story. it is very meaningful. now she now she is completely supportive of him. it was a difficult journey for. so, you know i'm really proud of her for being willing to tell her story. >> well, we are coming to a close. is there anything else you would like to add about your book and where it's available and who you hope picks it up. >> well, it is available online and all the major online retailers, amazon barnes & noble. target has an online. it's available in costco. it's available at exchanges and it is available in barnes & noble. for. for example, will be at fort hood on saturday doing a signing.
>> a purple pen. >> yes. and i encourage if you are a service member or have been a service member and encourage you to buy this book for your mom for mother's day to show her that you value her support. and support. and it is for moms, people who want to understand the life that we live command it is for anybody who has served in the military. >> thank you so much for joining us. appreciate it. >> great talking with you today. >> that was teesixteen's signature program in which authors of the latest nonfiction books are interviewed by journalists public policymakers, and others familiar with the material. it airs every weekend, ten pm on and saturday, 12 and 9:00 p.m. on sunday and
12:00 a.m. on monday. you can also watch online. go to booktv.org and click on after words in the upper right side of the page. jonathan horn is next on teesixteen. book tv. he recounts the decision of robert e. lee to join the confederate army. this is about an hour. >> my pleasure to introduce. an author and former white house presidential "the man who would not be washington" has appeared as a commentator. the new york times the
i should say a little a little bit less about my own part. i'm so pleased to be at this beautiful house and grateful to assist or -- the historical society for inviting me. i had a chance to go over and see this society earlier today. it is such a wonderful facility. i am happy to see that it is expanding. it is a great thing for people who do what i do because we are reliant on the great work that archivists and other preservationists due. thank you to the historical society for your great work. it is also a pleasure to be here. robert e lee came through in 1837. he was on a trip out west and am proud to tell you that louisville made quite an impression. it wasn't so much what he saw here as who he met here.
two ladies. in these just weren't any ladies. they were decidedly the most beautiful and interesting and ladies. never fear for me faithfully tells his wife every detail about how he escorted as women to there destination diligently and dutifully. we through louisville. an an assignment that he received from the us army corps of engineers which was lee's employer. they sent employer. they sent him to go to the mississippi river does work. i mentioned that because it was actually a river, different river that originally brought me to the story of robert e. lee. i confess that on the surface i seem like an unlikely person to write a biography about robert e. lee. i grew up in the suburbs of washington dc. i i spent most of my adult life working in the city.
and around those parts when you tell people that you are planning to write a civil war biography they assume they going to write about a union general not a confederate general. they certainly don't expect you will write about that confederate general. for a long time i avoided explain myself. i do what you do expect someone from washington to do when confronted with a tough question, ducted. [laughter] no more. tonight i want to buy myself what 1st drew what 1st drew me to robert e. lee was probably what you least expect, simple geography simply put, we grew up along the same river the potomac. now, that sound surprising for two reasons. we we think the potomac river especially out here in kentucky you probably imagine a polluted stream of political corruption.
sometimes that's true. he certainly don't imagine a river of american history. second when you think of robert ely you imagine him personifying an old self that seems light-years away from the cosmopolitan capitol that we know today. but the truth is far different. reminders reminders of robert e. lee are all around the city of washington and it is fortunate for me that one of those reminders was the majority of the papers of robert e. lee to read i was able to go to the archives and see the letters that he wrote. but writing a biography requires more than just looking at all letters. also requires getting out and seeing the places where history actually happened. and and the history of robert e. lee took place all around where i live. during the course of my research on this book i traveled the full length of the potomac river from its
source to its mouth. for those of you not familiar with the potomac it starts in west virginia where trickles out a little stone and goes down through the appalachian mountains pass the city of washington and empties into the chesapeake bay at.lookout maryland. and i really did drag my wife along for this entire ride along. so of so of all the things that you need to write a biography in understanding spouse but if you ever take this journey it went something's. _at new line at the potomac is much more than just a stream of political corruption. he line that robert e lee's history flows up and down this river. and new line that in the most unexpected ways the history of robert e. lee intersects with the father of our country's history and that is george washington's history. * way down river
westmoreland county, virginia. the chesapeake bay were brought -- were robert e. lee was born on a great plantation called stratford hall. built by his great great uncle thomas lee. thomas lee. thomas lee has the distinction of no other american. he fathered two signers of the declaration of independence. and a great house that thomas lee bill that stratford was the symbol of the great wealth that the lee family accumulated on the potomac river. they truly were one of virginia's finest families. and and not far from stratford hall, a short drive away westmoreland county you we will find were george washington was born. by the time robert ely was born in 1807 george washington was long dead. but but the lee and washington names had already been fused together command that was because of robert e lee's father a man named
henry white horse harry lee. white horse harry lee was one of george washington's most trusted count -- cavalry commanders. that is how he earned that nickname. but what makes the most famous is what he did after the war. he wrote a eulogy for result commander. he is the one who wrote 1st in war, 1st in peace, and 1st in the hearts of his countrymen. there still the words you remember george washington by today. and robert and robert e lee's time everyone knew that his father had written those words. much of harry lee admired george washington he could not copy his example. he could not imitate what he knew was george washington's greatest virtue. what was that? self-control and self command. after the revolutionary war harry lee cycle into
tragedy. tragedy. he bet almost all of his money homeland. if you lost very badly. in fact, he lost so badly that he ended up in debtor's prison. eventually he has to go into exile in the caribbean. caribbean. he loses family during the war of 1812 and never saw his son again. so robert ely didn't grow up on a big plantation because of these financial problems. if you want to find where he grew up you have to head out the potomac river to the town of alexandria where robert e. lee lived in modest houses belonging to friends and relatives who took pity on his mother. now, today we know alexandria as alexandria, virginia. back then it was alexandria in the district of columbia. the reason for that was george washington when he laid out the original
borders for the district of columbia stuck alexandria right into the bottom corner and indeed if you look at a map of dc today and you take the small strip of land where arlington and alexandria are you will see that it forms a perfect diamond shaped square. that was george washington's original intent for the district of columbia. he wanted to include went from maryland and virginia. and as the town closest george toward washington's mount vernon plantation alexandria considered itself to be george washington's hometown. and young robert did not have to look far to see reminders. you saw them everywhere. kaysix is a child worshiped at the episcopal church were george washington it on the pew. kaysix robert e. lee attended school at the alexandria academy which george washington endowed and robert e. lee ran errands for his mother in the marketplace were george washington had the troops during the french and indian
war. in the descriptions we have of the childhood of robert e. lee described him as anything but a a boy. they described him as a nurse tending to his mother. they described him as a housekeeper running errands for his family and no one understood what track down harry lee better than his wife. wife. she made sure that tragedy did not repeat itself. he taught young robert to put duty before desire to automatic control himself. he was a could never have his own way. and so as much as robert e. lee might want for material things he would not like the virtue the separated harry lee from george washington. robert ely you self-control and knew how to deny himself
what most connects actually happen just upriver. a little bit further upriver to the great pillard mentioned that sits atop the arlington heights. if you ever see the arlington heights today it's right across the potomac river from where the lincoln memorial and stands. there on june 301831 robert e lee married the daughter of george washington's adopted son. today we no arlington is a a cemetery, but back then it was a memorial to george washington because george washington's adopted son to my man named george washington parke is built that house and filled it with relics of mount vernon. if you had gone to arlington in the 19th century you would have seen china furniture, portraits that had once been in mount vernon. you have you have even seen the bed were george washington died and supposedly george washington parke up to have left it in
the exact same condition. people from all people from all across the country came to arlington to see these mementos. it was almost as if arlington was a museum. there was something else the legacy slaves who had dissented from mount vernon. you might ask yourself how that was possible. didn't george didn't george washington famously free all the slaves and as well? he did for his own slaves. what he could not do much as he wanted to was free his wife's slaves. and some and some of those became the property of george washington's adopted son. now, lee himself that the slavery was an evil institution. there you should not make the mistake of thinking he was an abolitionist. he certainly was not. he he prayed for the day the government and slavery though it may surprise you know that he thought slavery was worse for whites that it
was with the slaves themselves which is an attitude that is probably hard for us to understand today. basically he just wanted nothing to do with the system tuition. try his hardest to avoided as much as possible. but what ultimately entangles them is that his father dies in 1857 and he leaves a we will naming robert ely as executor other states that actually include slaves who are descended from mount vernon. so on the eve of the civil war robert e. lee is managing his states that include slaves that george washington had wanted to but cannot free. and so and so it was very much the unresolved question of slavery one of the personal legacies that robert e. lee received from george washington. and to see how this unresolved question of slavery began turning to
violence, you have to just had about 60 miles of river 60 miles of the potomac river and come to a little town called harpers ferry. and it is in george washington's idea the stick of federal armory and harpers ferry. his advisers say it's a terrible idea. if you ever been they're you can see why. is surrounded by three towering bluffs in the blue ridge mountains. george washington thought that would make it easy to defend. as it turned out it made it completely indefensible. and in 1859 a group of abolitionists led by one john brown crossed the potomac river sees the armory and took a number of hostages. one of those hostages was a man named lewis washington who was actually george washington's great grandnephew.
and john brown took something else, not him personally, he had his accomplices take something else, a sword that had once belonged to george washington. and for the entire time that john brown controlled harpers ferry he is carrying a sword that belonged to george washington. who is sent out to take back harpers ferry, to reasserts federal control? robert e. lee lieutenant colonel robert e. lee. he goes to harpers ferry and is already known at that time as one of the military's finest soldiers. he had earned their reputation during the war in mexico. he proved to be a brilliant soldier, a unique understanding of topography, can see things others cannot and he equips himself quite well. he well. he performs well carpets down the insurrection, reasserts federal control. and what becomes known as john brown's raid an already impressive military resume it's another we will. but it heralds the coming of the american civil war.
and i want to take you to one final place just a little bit upriver from harpers ferry. it's a quiet national park today where you'll find a cornfield a sunken road and the stonebridge over the creek call the antietam. there on september 17, 1862 robert e lee and and the outmanned and outgunned army of northern virginia thought the union army of the potomac which was much much larger to a a stalemate in the bloodiest single day of combat in american history. the battle of antietam marks the end of robert e lee's 1st invasion across the potomac. and he and he gave abraham lincoln who was president the opportunity to issue the preliminary emancipation
proclamation which in turn would eventually allow abraham lincoln to give a knew birth a knew birth of freedom to the union george washington forged. now anyone who takes the journey must wrap up with an unavoidable question how do you army officer go to war against what we today consider george washington's greatest legacy, the union. it it was this question that ultimately drew me to the story of robert e. lee and it is that tragic tension and the knowledge that history could have turned out so much differently because on the eve of the civil war leaders on both sides of the potomac in richmond and in washington sought lee's services for high command. both knew about his connections to george washington. that was common knowledge. both sought tremendous significance in them. winfield scott who at the time was the ranking general in the u.s. army family was
the very best soldier he had ever seen the field. and robert ely certainly looked like a fine soldier. he stood just under 6 feet tall had powerful, broad shoulders, beryl just perfect perfect posture. everyone who saw him said some version of the same thing, that man looks every inch the soldier. and so april 1861 and emissary for abraham lincoln asks robert ely to ride across my arlington and come to the city of washington. that emissary's. that emissary's name is francis player command he makes an extraordinary offer he says will you lead the main union army to crush secession? and as we remember the story he tried in every way to convince robert ely to say yes. he said the country looks to you as a representative
of the washington family to save the union george washington forged, and that was hardly an exaggeration. here was the son of george washington's most famous eulogized and a son-in-law of george washington's adopted child. and so now only one word separator robert ely from the pinnacle of his profession from command of what would be the largest american army ever raised from glory that know american since george washington and known command what did he say? well, that he well, that he opposed secession command he did. he thought secession was illegal. equally significantly he thought george washington was opposed. and that was not given at the time because people on both sides of the conflict and george washington for their own. secessionist say george washington was a a rebel who rebelled against the union with the british. on the on the other side unionists will say george washington in his farewell address set to prize the
union above any sectional legions. and actually, robert e. lee is reading a biography of george washington in the month before the civil war. his hearing these arguments and concludes that he basically agrees with the union's position, that george washington would have opposed secession. so what else does lee say? he says that he would gladly washes hands of slavery gladly get rid of all slavery if it can avoid war. then he says, but how can i raise my sword against my native state and here are blair family tradition says he hesitated come as if searching for an answer. as we told the story he gave the answer once in that wants, no. he turned down the command though he could not yet turned in his commission in the army served serve for more than three decades. he returns to arlington house, soon learns that virginia has voted to
succeed from the union. and then on and then on april 20 he writes a letter resigning from the union army. and his wife would call that decision to resign the severest struggle of his life. but just three days after sending that resignation letter we is welcomed in richmond as the knew commander in chief of all virginia's armed forces. and the convention and the convention president, the president of the virginia secession commission says basically that robert ely is the 2nd coming of george washington and hopes that what was once said of george washington will soon be said of robert e. lee, 1st in war in the 1st in peace, and 1st in the hearts of his countrymen. the very the very words that harry lee had describe george washington with. so we face this tragic tension in his story.
and robert e lee e lee, for his part, would say he did not have a choice. he made the only choice. it it was very much like him to say he could never have his own way. so he decided to have virginia's way. but at the same time they made different decisions. winfield scott decided to stay with the union. when robert e lee came to winfield scott and told him that he had turned down command of the main union army being raised winfield scott said lee you have made the greatest mistake of your life. i feared it would be so. and it is true that the decision that robert e. lee made cost them terribly. one of the 1st thing that happens after he decides to five from virginia is that union soldiers cost the bridges from washington and
sees the arlington heights where robert ely had lived. if you have ever been to washington you know why they did this. if the confederacy had managed to fortify those sites you could have destroyed washington. you can have bombarded the white house. in time as the casualties mount in this work union authorities are going to decide to turn arlington the estate where robert e. lee married the daughter of george washington adopted son into the cemetery that we know today. and that is just the beginning. i think as you read how his decision to fight against the union tore his ties to its founder you will be astonished because it is shockingly personal the price that he paid. now, my wife will tell you that the reason i became so fascinated by this decision is how irreversible was. and as a writer i have a
very different life because i can write something research it, and then change and million times. that is what writers do. do. we never had that luxury. there was no going back. we talk so often about social movements and trends that we sometimes forget that history is not inevitable history can turn on the decision of the single individual. he was such he was such an example. his decision forever changed the course of american history. you ask yourself how. just. just imagine the counterfactual. but what happened if robert e. lee had accepted that command if the soldier most associated with george washington had saved the union that george washington that created for what we think about our country, how would that change your outlook? and there is no better place to ponder that question arlington. if you go out past the graves of the men who died defending the union command
you go out arlington heights which the father of robert e. lee originally billed as a memorial to george washington but is now a monument to robert e. lee the national robert e. lee memorial. you stare across the potomac river at the city of washington. you will see the washington monument in the distance. before the washington monument is the lincoln memorial. and that is a powerful symbol for our country because for all of his connections to george washington he is no longer the american that he most closely associate with george washington. that honor boisterous out of kentucky born without a single connection to george washington. that honor belongs to abraham lincoln. herman melville once wrote who looks at lemos think of washington. so deeply grievous meaning. i think we have hidden the thought for too long. hope you'll read about it in my book and come to
washington and see some of the places i described. i am thankful to you all for coming in will be happy to answer questions. thank you. [applause] yes. >> there is a story after the war in a church in of the story. i don't believe it. i would like you to comment on it. would you comment? there's a black man. no one knows what to do. he goes up and kneels beside him. that's a story this been told by many people. it was told many years after the event.
it's very difficult to evaluate the accuracy. but just actually seeing a recent article of people debating it. unfortunately i can't answer the question. there is some evidence something like that happened his motives for doing it. the something that's something we can't answer. as possible -- us are recent article what he was thinking was simply put that he did not like people feeling awkward and that the best way to put this event behind was to go on for his business and set an example for everyone else. and so you just don't know. it's a great story. i can't say if not true and i can see it is true. it's right on the frontlines of history. >> am interested in what happened to lee after the war. we just visited the greenbrier. i no he's been some summers there. one a few years after the war was over.
other confederate other confederate generals were there as well. he ended up signing something known as the greenbrier doctrine. >> sure. let me talk about what he did after the war. after the war he leaves appomattox, goes back to richmond and sort of has this vision that maybe he will try to get a plot of land if the union authorities will allow him to do that. but then the most unexpected thing happens. a small college in the shenandoah valley sends a messenger to lee and says you have been elected pres. of washington college. now, washington college actually had a very real connection to george washington. it had been endowed very early in history by george washington but the college had been destroyed during the civil war. union soldiers had run all of over the campus, smash the
facilities command it was in bad shape. most people thought this offer was very beneath. and lee takes a different attitude. for four years i have led the men of the south and more. now i have a responsibility to help them for piece and the help them rebuild the country. and so he accepts the author he goes out he goes out to lexington, virginia and becomes president of washington college. today, of course, we no washington college as washington and lee university because it is immediately renamed as soon as you guys. now, he did go out to the greenbrier a lot and there was -- he did participate in the greenbrier document that you named. so that was an example of where he was trying to be joined the politics and was often reluctant to do this openly because he felt that
his voice in politics at least openly was not useful. there were examples of them trying to be drawn in the into politics. is called to washington to testify before congress shortly after the work. it asked all kinds of questions. they wanted to speak for virginia and he doesn't want to. but he does answer questions and he says i don't even read newspapers anymore which is a completely true because he still has a firm understanding of what is happening in the country. he is slightly.of fact and does in his private correspondence remain extremely engaged in politics. he is very opposed to what he sees in the radical republicans and what there doing the country. and i told you before the war he was opposed to secession and thought it was illegal. but after the war he
actually changes his views. views. you may have heard about this, but he does take maybe secession was illegal and maybe the founding fathers and always permitted. so i think it's understandable why he might change his views because he is just been through a horrific more but thousands of minutes a a battle and that sometime you essentially absorb the southern argument. so lee does -- now mention this now just because he thinks it might not have been illegal he informs people that this matter is rebels federal, tells them to raise the children as americans, to put the civil war behind and go be productive citizens. yes? >> did you find any evidence where his anti- slavery feelings came from? i mean,, did he read? where did that come from?
>> so, that's a a great question. actually, robert ely married into a family his mother-in-law was very religious. she took the attitude she basically was one of the leading members of the american colonization society. she thought it was basically a religious duty to prepare slaves to find freedom in african colonies. in this was a very important mission to the mother-in-law of robert e. lee and then to his wife. robert e. lee was not active necessarily in the american colonization society but his father-in-law became somewhat active. when he died he left a will that had something else it. you must raise enough money to pay off my debts and my legacies.
but you must emancipate my slaves within five years. now, these are completely impossible goals to reconcile because he can't pay off the debt and legacies the estate owed if he is emancipating the workforce that he needs to raise the money. in this whole conflict actually plays out in national media before the civil war because there's a great national interest in what happens to the slaves because people know that the father-in-law of robert e. lee was george washington's adopted son. and robert e. lee struggles with this. he actually says that his father-in-law left in the terrible legacy. >> he has great affection for virginia obviously because he is a native virginian, a native virginian, but there is so much in his life that has led them to have great
affection for the nation. west point, the united states army. he didn't just live in virginia. what if the tables in your opinion? >> i think what tipped the scales -- and you are absolutely right. he constantly talks about how much he loves the union and his devotion but he says that he has been taught from is very 1st day that his 1st allegiance is to virginia. virginia. even at that time there were people who were surprised. it just seems strange to us that someone who was so associated with george washington is ignoring the message of george washington's farewell address. but we never labored in this question. he always felt he had a duty to virginia was determined to fulfill it. in some sense he's in a no-win situation. easier going to go to war against this country are his home state. now, but to say other virginians didn't make that choice.
they did. it's just understanding was extremely difficult decision to make. >> how about the statement that one of the differences between lee and washington was that washington realized that the commander-in-chief had to not lose the war and that we never had that insight and possibly in the civil war that would also have been true. >> and that is one of the criticisms often leveled. but if you think about it, the civil war was different than the revolutionary war. during the revolutionary war george washington faced an enemy who was an ocean away. robert ely was fighting enemy there was a river away and he very much felt that time was not on his side. that's a revisionist
argument. he didn't feel that. the longer this the longer this war went on the mormon the union can bring to bear for the more union army's would come from the south and cause damage. he thought that the south social worker with snap. basically he thought basically he thought that he had to break the north political we will. and so that's why you find them so devoted to the concept of trying to destroy the union army. even after his greatest victories is extremely frustrated. he doesn't celebrated. the union army got away and a way that he felt he had to destroy the union army. time was not necessarily on his side. >> i came across an interesting comment. making dictator.
>> it was published in newspapers at the time. they openly said basically george washington was essentially a dictator at the end of the revolutionary war. lee was never interested in that. he thought that he could barely do what he had to do to oversee the army in virginia. how could he possibly take responsibility for anything else? that said he does enough accepting the title of general in chief of all the confederate forces which makes his job all the much harder. you might think again for such a great honor but he doesn't see it that way. this year is not something to celebrate.
the social order before the southern secession. rebelling. he wanted the social order maintained. >> you can make the argument that he had a more gradual view. for example, it wasn't that he was opposed to emancipation but he was in favor of it gradual emancipation. part of the key is understanding that he was truly a conservative posing
as rebellion. it rebellion. it might be one of the keys to understanding his personality. rebellious rebellion. >> i think the factual question, that's true. and there is no escaping that. in fact that the cause ended up becoming. he is somewhat aware of that. later in the war some are holding out hope. and he is just not interested in hearing it because he says the rest of the world this looks like a contest between slavery and freedom. as long as that is the case no foreign power we will intervene in our behalf. put aside those thoughts. your.is well taken. >> to come across anything his thoughts.
>> actually the league is an interview when he gets back to richmond. again, not completely like him. he is on record. and he is very disturbed by it. he thinks this is a terrible act. his biggest fear is that the north is going to blame this on the south and is going to lead of retribution or even worse than what was already going to happen. he was upset about this. >> the side of the treaty. so informal. grant was just the opposite. >> that is, in fact? europe. pretty much that moment has been described that way ever since it happened. lee comes in. grant has spouse not even
fully buttoned. robert ely has this fancy sort. grant has no sort of all. kaysix has beautiful robert e. lee has beautiful spurs. grant comes in with muddy boots. robert e. lee has this perfect posture, granted slumped overlooking. you just have this amazing contrast between two great generals. it is something that people noted at the end and have noted ever since. >> i believe that robert e. lee graduated 2nd in his class at west point. at the time became engineers. became engineers. how was he able to get in the infantry? where is he learned? be the head of the upper virginia army. >> am glad you asked. he did graduate 2nd in his class and going to be an
engineer which was considered the most prestigious branch of the army. to go back to what i said at the beginning, is coming to louisville in 1857 on his way to st. louis and performed of the mississippi river. during the mexican-american war he really puts a skill to work but engineers play an important role in deciding where the air is can go. was called then a talent for topography and recognizes he conceived roots around mexican army that other people can't see. he plays an indispensable role in that. his background as an engineer comes back during these early campaign of the civil war. we we have this image that he was immediately successful. that's actually not true. his 1st campaigns were disasters. sent to west virginia command he has a very elaborate battle. it it requires independent columns to converge at the
same moment. the plan the plan is just a complete failure. newspapers in the south actually say robert e. lee is too much of an engineer to be able to command. he is not a soldier. what we need right now is fighting men. of course of course in 1862 when robert e. lee chases john mcclellan of the peninsula the same newspapers are speaking very differently. >> what was grants personal opinion? >> sure. the canadians, canadian sky grant writes about this moment and says he is almost impossible to read his facial expressions. in this moment of ultimate deceit he is holding himself together with complete self control. the other thing so interesting about that grant had some pretty good memories from the mexican-american war.
lee has been struggling the picture grants face the whole time is been fighting in. during that time robert e. lee was much more important the grant. there is one more meeting that happens. that takes place at the white house when graham becomes pres. and robert e. lee goes to the white house had meets the newest occupant. occupant. you can only imagine what that must've been like. yes. >> that he had the skills or talents for looking at property. so gettysburg where he did not take his lieutenant advisers under consideration, do you believe his personality of holding things in them being in control and being overwhelmed with the loss of stonewall jackson that anything to do with his poor decision-making?
>> is certainly looks back at gettysburg and as a number of explanations. he is not getting good intelligence because stewart disappeared. his cavalry commander. he goes on a joyride before gettysburg. lee arrives -- he believes his corps commanders don't act in unison in belize even at pickett's charge he might have succeeded if you have proper artillery support. i think i think pickett's charge in some sense is a moment of frustration. he feels like he's running out of time. if you go back to chancellorsville. he is furious that he manages to escape and a lot of confederates think that hookers final position is a
pretty strong position. he was planning to order a frontal assault against that position. but hooker withdraws that night. in some sense for can make the greatest mistake he says are really for making a mistake if you make. >> he did. he did. he was asked that question directly. he did say that he thought at this.it was better to begin to enlist african-americans in the fight. you have to include emancipation as part of the deal because people would not fight unless they get emancipation. better to have them fight with us that the going to be fighting. so he does take that you.
>> i believe after the war there was a lot of pressure only from generals and officials at the former confederacy to write his memoirs and procrastinated. of course he died in 1870. i was curious i was curious to always there any preliminary material he might have gathered? >> there is actually. a relatively recent discovery. he did he did say right after the war that he wanted to write his memoirs. but you have to remember that he had lost almost all of his personal papers during the war. so he is actually writing letters and asking people to send in those documents so that he can try to reconstruct some idea of what has happened. as such happened. as such a frustrating process that he basically does abandon the project. what he does instead is writes a memoir of his father for a knew edition a knew edition of harry reid memoirs and writes a short
biography of him very awkward task. you actually go through and can see. he crosses out certain things. for example, it says that his father had oppose the virginia resolution. 1798. he crosses that out. he doesn't want harry lee had also played an important role in putting down the rescuer billion. and robert ely's brothers say something about along the lines of trying to make a comparison between the whiskey rebellion in the civil war and am merciful harry reid of george washington were compared to how brutal the union authorities have been to the lake confederates. robert ely just writes this entire paragraph that says i we will not acknowledge any comparison between the civil war in the whiskey rebellion. >> an icon of the lost cause but did he ever himself
identify with it, right in favor of it? >> it is an extremely ironic thing. you have you have a soldier who was so reluctant about secession who becomes the icon of the lost cause. you know his wife certainly recognizes what has happened after he dies. one dies. one of the 1st things that does happen when he dies you can imagine there are a lot of eulogies given. what do people say about him when he dies? they say that he is 1st in war, 1st in peace and 1st in the hearts of countrymen, the very words that his father used to describe george washington. that brings that. all that. so that starts going up very quickly. >> how did your understanding where your feeling for him change as you went through the journey
they you describe? from the compelling question that drew you to him did you find some reconciliation yourself? how did you feel about his decision. >> well, what you asked that question. actually, going back to the previous question so much made me think of him as a symbol for one thing or another. he is such a divisive figure in society. we're always trying to make it represents something. whatever you think that the civil war. and what was wonderful to find by looking at what he actually wrote in looking at the c wrote to his wife and children i got to see a man who could be very funny at times who could be sometimes flirtatious with women as i mentioned but he also has an extreme sense of frustration.
he had a feeling that he could never have his own way in life was being forced and the roles that of his own choosing, there's and there's something about that that makes his story tragic. i think his story is a unique tragedy in american history. yes. >> as pres. of washington college how effective was see? always his life like their? >> he was actually a very involved president. there wasn't much liken. he he actually helped long office hours and boys didn't do there work. they were called in to see generally. you can only imagine how that went. we know how that went. went. a lot of the left with tears. and he actually was quite progressive and his ideas about education.
the cow is needed to expand its offerings to prepare people for the jobs that were actually available at that time. he really actually expands this role dramatically, increases the endowment, creates new programs. one of the programs is a scholarship in the field -- i'm sorry sorry course of study in the field he dislikes, journalism. you know i think people see him after the war and a lot of people see him taking long rides a resource. they wonder what's on his mind. so one can only imagine what he was thinking during those rights. >> the story of reconstruction was somewhat reassessed recently were not too long ago.
many americans still you reconstruction through the eyes of birth of a a nation income the wind. >> exactly right. it has been reassessed. people look at it differently. i didn't mean i didn't mean to imply i looked at it one way or another. that is sort of bribery. what robert ely thought to the country. is country. is not so much -- i don't know if you care to know but i'm the surly think about the country and think restriction had been reevaluated and we see a lot of good things that came out of reconstruction that are different from the old traditional narrative and a lot of ideas that would later find the time in american history. there certainly a better country because of. >> does lee ever address the guilt about the deaths of the men under his command?
>> yes. i guess i answer that question two different ways. ways. one is talking about those people, the union army to be perfectly blunt he wishes that he could have destroyed more because he thinks it's so essential to victory to destroy the union army. but after gettysburg he does say -- i don't have the exact words, but he basically says he wishes he could never see blood again or have to watch bullets be fired over again because you seen so many good men die. i think that is a statement -- i would not say it's regret, but it's certainly a sign sign of just how much these deaths affect them. actually, i didn't get a chance to mention this but one of the 1st most personal deaths is during one of his early campaigns in 1861 in western virginia he brings his made. this man is actually the air to